Many Oklahoma City residents want historical names to stay on school buildings

OKLAHOMA CITY - There are thousands of schools across the country named after historic figures.

An elementary school in Oklahoma City is named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, but recent events across the country have some school officials considering a change.

After events in Charlottesville, there have been discussions to remove his name from public schools in Oklahoma, but officials said it does comes at a cost.

“So many of us have been able to say 'We went to Lee. Yes, we went to Lee.' Now, all of a sudden, poof, they're trying to change it,” said alumnus Kristina Weeks.

It's a name that takes many back to a time of division - General Robert E. Lee led Confederate troops during the Civil War.

But, to some, it's not a name that should be erased from history or from the title of Oklahoma schools.

“Honestly, I don't approve of it. It's not cool. So far, they changed Capitol Hill High School from the Redskins now to the Red Wolves. Now, they want to change Lee,” Weeks said.

Just this week, a petition that is supported by one local lawmaker made its way to the Tulsa Public School District to change the name of its Lee Elementary School.

“I just don't think it’s incredibly appropriate, as we try to educate the next generation, to have some of them come to a school named after someone who fought and died so that some of them wouldn't be able to read,” said State Rep. Monroe Nichols.

So far, Oklahoma City Public Schools hasn't received a petition, but officials did tell us folks have voiced concerns regarding Lee Elementary School and Stand Watie, which is named after a Native American Confederate General.

The district said recommendations or discussions on name changes will be decided by the school board based on school policy.

Right now, people tell us they want the names left alone.

“I feel that the name should stay,” said Laticia Brannon. "I went there when I was little, and that school is history to me."

The Oklahoma City Public School District released the following statement:

"The OKCPS family is deeply saddened by the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Unfortunately, Oklahoma City knows the damage that racism and hate can cause, as many of us experienced one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history. OKCPS teachers, principals, counselors and coaches are focused on supporting the many students who may be feeling confused or threatened by the violent, racist statements and actions that have occurred over the past few days. As OKCPS Board Member Carrie Jacobs so eloquently said, this district is committed to 'helping our students make sense of a world that doesn’t always make sense.' We believe the rich diversity of our community is what makes us strong, and that is something we choose to celebrate.

We recognize that the historical names of some of our facilities are not names that reflect our values in 2017. OKCPS leadership will take direction from the Board of Education regarding any discussion or recommendations to rename schools in the district, according to board policy. The expense to change the name of a facility is approximately $50,000-75,000, so the decision to rename any school has significant budgetary implications that must be considered in these challenging budget times; however, we hope eventually to ensure that all OKCPS schools have names that reflect our values."